Primula parryi detail

Rock treasures from Wasatch Mountains

The nice thing about Snowbird is that if you are short on time, the Aerial Tram from the Snowbird Centre it will take you up to the Hidden Peak situated at 11,000 ft. in no time. This will give you plenty of time to take pictures and botanize around. From there, one option is to explore on the trail towards the East Twin Peak. The whole ridge looks like a crevice garden planted with species adapted to the harsh environment, all of them real rock treasures.

Among these, Hymenoxys grandiflora – Old Man of the Mountain (Asteraceae), is an alpine that cannot be missed. Flower stems range from a few inches tall to 10 inches and the big yellow flower heads, are said to face east almost always. Stems and leaves are dense hairy green. Phlox hoodii – Carpet or Hood’s phlox (Polemoniaceae), is a miniature phlox growing on dry, rocky slopes from mid to high-elevations. It forms compact clumps, 6 – 8 inches high, with white to lilac flowers. The leaves are sharply pointed and woolly pubescent. It blooms from May to July depending on elevation.  

Another very bright alpine plant, Eriogonum umbellatumSulphur flowered buckwheat (Crucifereae) – grows about 12 to 14 inches tall and has flowers that are cream to bright, sulphur yellow at the top of sturdy stems.  Leaves are glabrate, green above and pubescent beneath. Although very well known, we are always happy to meet Silene acaulis. The Moss campion (Caryophyllaceae)is usually the special reward for those who climb to the mountain tops, both in North America and Europe. It is a low, densely matted, cushion-like perennial generally less than 2 inches tall. The stems are woody and densely covered with short needle-like leaves. They flower from July to August producing a multitude of small pink blossoms.

Hiking down from the Hidden Peak, in the Little Cloud Bowl, there was still a lot of snow, but we rummaged between rocks and snow knowing that we must find there an elusive Primula: Primula parryi. Parry’s primrose (Primulaceae) is a rather rare alpine beauty that likes to have wet roots, so it is often found in snow-melt areas, alpine streamsides above 10,000 ft. elevation. The thick leaves are disposed in rosettes and supposedly have an unpleasant aroma (that we didn’t noticed). The flowers are a bright magenta colour with yellow centers, produced on a sturdy stem up to 12 inches tall.

A few other interesting alpines presented in the gallery: Androsace septentrionalis, Anemone multifida and Antennaria microphylla. But these are really just a few plant portraits from an area extremely rich in wildflowers, well worth of an alpine ‘escapade’ at the end of July or in August, when there’ll be probably more chances to collect some seeds too.